Plenty of ‘Play’ in MELANCHOLY PLAY at Allens Lane

by Lisa Panzer

In this thoroughly delightful farce of the absurd, the longing for love and the desire for more than life’s less lively apects can offer is explored through one woman’s pervasive aura of melancholy. Her beautiful melancholia is such that it transcends those around her and causes them to wallow in feelings of love and great longing, all of which are aimed at her! These mis-aimed arrows of romance do hit the funny bone at times! There is plenty of ‘play’ in this poetic work by award winning playwright Sarah Ruhl, as directed by M. Craig Getting.

There is a bit of didactism as well, as the play is also an exposition on emotions, polar in particular, such as happiness/sorrow, presenting the question of whether sadness should be prescribed away or engaged and fully experienced. Tilly (engagingly played by Kristen Ergermeier), an emotional bellwether, reflects on the beauty of many things such as a lovely sunset, but then sadness ensues when she realizes that prismatic moment shall pass into the abyss of eternity. Her employers send her to a psychiatrist, Lorenzo (dapperly done by Andrew Albitz) who offers a prescription to make her “feel really good!”, but falls ‘madly’ in love with her. Tilly’s starchy tailor, Frank (sincerely portrayed by Daniel McLaughlin) also becomes entranced by her black bile ‘humors’, as does Francis (sensitively rendered by Amy Frear), her hairdresser, as Frank and Francis are echoes of each other. Joan (given wonderful expression by E.Ashley Izard), Francis’s non-jealous partner, invites Tilly for tea and both women fawn over her. Tilly explains, “I suffer so often, and so well”. When Tilly becomes happy during a birthday party her friends throw for her, then absolutely blithe, her admirers become disconnected, taciturn, and in a moment of wonderful absurdity, another literally goes nuts, transforming into an almond. The darkness of Tilly’s mood makes the brightness that ensues within her much more pronounced. Meanwhile, ever present in the background, is Julian (nicely played by Hannah Gold), quiet observer and provider of music.

The physical aspects of this show are well aligned. Lighting (Mike Lucek), sound and music (M. Craig Getting) are used to successful affect in connoting moods, both depressed and elevated. The set (David Ward) is cleverly constructed and also used towards imbuing the audience with a sense of psychological space, and stage space is well utilized allowing for variety in movement.

Why are you like an almond? Bring your own bottle, some snacks and such to Allens Lane Theater, see the show, and ponder this question. Or just enjoy this wonderful play. Opening night’s audience sure did!

Written by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by M. Craig Getting
80 minutes running time, no intermission
March 8 – 23, 2013
Allens Lane Theater
Allens Lane and McCallum Street
Philadelphia, PA 19119

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